Recommended Reading: Zadie Smith in “T Magazine”

©Jackie Nickerson for "T Magazine"/ Inez & Vinoodh for "The Gentlewoman"

Author Zadie Smith and her new book Swing Time were featured in the T Magazine

In its current issue titled “The Greats”, T Magazine profiles seven personalities that are currently redefining their respective fields – and with seven different dedicated covers. Among them, and alongside Michelle Obama (who needs no further explanation), are super-chef Massimo Bottura as well as author Zadie Smith. Ah, thinks the discerning reader – a few weeks ago she was already gracing the cover of my favorite magazine The Gentlewoman (in a coat by The Row, photographed by Inez & Vinoodh).

Admittedly, her books White Teeth, NW, and Changing My Mind are still lying around my home only partially read, divided between my nightstand, the living room, and the bookcase. But now, at least, it’s time to take a closer look at this 41-year-old Briton.

She was born in London, her mother Jamaican, her father British. At just 21-years-old, still a student of literature at Cambridge University’s King’s College, she apparently received a six-figure advance from a publisher for an 80-page manuscript. Hamish Hamilton Publishing subsequently won the rights to it at a literature auction. Based on this manuscript, White Teeth came out in 2000 – becoming a bestseller that same year and catapulting Smith to fame. Her many award-winning books and essays that followed, published among others in The Paris Review as well as also currently in the British newspaper The Guardian, prove how honest her writing, the passion she made into a career, still is.

Smith’s network of friends reads like a Who’s Who of the New York (where she now lives) and London (where she grew up) literary scenes and includes Jeffrey Eugenides (who wrote the wonderful feature about her in T Magazine), Leanne Shapton (LINK), Dave Eggers, Philip Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Nicole Krauss. Alongside her partner, author and poet Nick Laird, she is raising their two children and teaching creative writing at New York University.

Apart from her obvious talent for clearly bringing the pursuit of many life goals together at the same time, for me Zadie is first and foremost also the embodiment of imperfection – in an interview with Sophie Elmhirst in The Gentlewoman, she admitted to still not being at peace with herself. It is a constant process of smoothing her internal conflicts. “I refuse to be bullied by the idea that you have to have mental peace to write. I definitely have no mental peace, but I have written despite that…”

And beyond that, for many others Zadie stands as a symbol for a group in our society that doesn’t always have it easy: her heritage in combination with her gender are two central themes that she always deals with in her successful novels, expressing the feelings of a large target group in the process.

The conversation with her friend and fellow author Jeffrey Eugenides in the aforementioned publication primarily came about because her new book Swing Time is due to be published on the 15th of November. It’s about two friends and their love of music, both with the dream of becoming dancers – of course their lives go in two different directions, otherwise there would be no story. A wonderful essay about music as a form of expression for emotions and thoughts, and one that is possible without words (Zadie’s creative tool), can be found in The Guardian. And before I even knew it, I had spent two full days with Zadie in front of all the wildly interesting material she’s left behind on the internet and in book form. No wonder that Die Welt will be honoring her life’s work the week after next.

Zadie Smith – Swing Time
Her book "Swing Time" will be available from November 15th at fine booksellers and online on Amazon

The aforementioned feature in T Magazine with Jeffrey Eugenides can be found here.
The magazine The Gentlewoman can be found in well-stocked magazine shops or online here.
The conversation with Zadie Smith and Jeffrey Eugenides for the Salon Series that were organised by the NYU can be found here.


Translation: Melissa Frost

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.